Havasupai

Trailhead: Supai, AZ 
Length: 8 miles to the tourist office; 2 miles from tourist office to campsite
Elevation Gain: 2400 ft.
Difficulty: Strenuous due to the heat
Total time: 3-4 hrs
Dogs: No
Parking: There is a dirt lot at the trailhead, but do know that it’s packed and you may have to park fairly far down the highway. Also be aware of people double parking and blocking you in–that happened to one of our group members the first time she did it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You NEED a permit to hike Havasupai. There is no day hiking allowed. I keep getting messages from people saying “I’m gonna try to go next week!” and I’m like, “aww buddy… that’s not gonna happen.”

Permits open up on Feb 1 for each year and sell out within hours. You can get a permit by going to the website or calling in.  We were only able to get a permit for one night which meant we really had to work to make the most of our trip.

Here’s how it went.

We left Riverside after work on Wednesday and arrived at Hilltop at 2:30 a.m., ready to go. We stopped several times for bathroom breaks and made the unfortunate decision to stop in the McDonald’s in Needles for food, which was apparently overrun because the Jack in the Box had flooded.

As a result, McDonald’s was out of just about everything and my egg McMuffin came out cold.

Don’t do that. Take an extra hour and stop in Kingman instead. So many more options there. So many, many more.

Anyway, Needles is about 2 hours from the reservation. One thing I don’t remember anyone preparing me for was the drive in on the reservation in the dark. Animals roam free there and so the entire time we were dodging elk, deer, cows, coyotes, and bunnies that would dart in front of the car. It was like “Where’s Waldo” for spotting animals that would kill you if you didn’t find them before they ran into your vehicle.

After being terrorized by suicidal animals for an hour and a half, we were very happy to get out of the car and start hiking. Unfortunately we were told “Nah, bro” by the ranger and told we’d have to come back at 4 a.m. before we could go down.

Exhausted from the drive, we took a quick, uncomfortable nap and then started the 8 mile trek to the village.

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The hike is relatively flat with the exception of the first mile, which steadily declines and tries to murder you with sand and gravel (danger was a running theme this trip). On the way we saw a giant scorpion (more danger), the moon set, and the sun rise.

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We made it to the village at 6:45 a.m. and picked up the permits. This is where I noticed that my shoe had ripped. At the beginning of the trip. Awesome.

 

 

After buying a $10 roll of duct tape to fix the shoe which did not work AT ALL, we began the descent to the campsite which was another 2 miles down. On the way to the site we passed both Navajo Falls and Havasu falls but my back hurt from the pack, and the heat began to climb, and the lack of sleep made it hard for me to care much about any “dumb miracles of nature” because I just wanted to take my bag off.

We finally made it to the camp and set up our hammocks, and took a quick nap in the 105 degree heat. It was glorious.

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We chose to camp next to the river which felt great to dip the feet in due to the heat, which I am sure was sent from Satan himself. In the afternoon we decided to head over to Mooney Falls to cool down.

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Because I wanted to save my hiking shoes now that they had a hole, I decided to hike in my new Salomon water shoes which turned out to be a pretty solid plan because they were comfy and grippy.

The hike to Mooney isn’t far from the campsite, but the hike into the waterfall area is one of the sketchiest of sketch descents in the history of sketch. It’s like something out of the Goonies only you don’t have any of Data’s gadgets to save you, and you spend every moment envisioning your inevitable plummet to death.

To make matters better, there’s only one path up and one path down which is the perfect recipe for a traffic jam.

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The amount of people who could SEE us waiting at the middle trying to get down who then decided to go up so we couldn’t move was astounding. To those people, I would like to say: you suck.

We waited at the sketch part for 10 min before we decided to stop being polite and start getting real and elbow our way down.

While we were waiting at the crossroads I looked at @katierm1821 and said “NEVER AGAIN”

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Once we got there we went exploring, jumped off the rope swing and swam into a cave. I then looked at Katie and said “Ok, totally doing this again.”

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After a couple of hours we made our way back up sketchville and to the camp. We would have liked to hit Beaver Falls, since to get there you have to go through Mooney, but we were too tired and decided that needed to be saved for another trip.

While eating dinner the mosquitoes came out and were like “Oh, heyyyyy” so I pulled out the 98% DEET and still got four bites, one of which has turned into some weird red rash on my leg, so I’m not really sure what that’s about.

Even at 9:30 it was still hot as I lay in my hammock but I mananged to crash hard until I woke up two hours later FREEZING. Supai weather, make up your mind already.

Despite this, I woke up after an awesome night’s sleep in the hammock. I know you’re not going to believe this but I’m not being sarcastic. It’s true. Sometimes I AM sincere. Like only sometimes though. Anyway, it was actually great night’s sleep, and much needed if I was going to backpack 30 lbs through the canyon.

We decided to break up the trip back to the village by stopping at Havasu, Navajo, and 50ft falls.

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Havasu falls was super pretty with lots of fun pools where I managed to almost drown myself with the use of a floatie (danger!) because I really am just that special. We saw some guys taking some heavy duty tubes into the river leading away from the falls and found out that you can ride about 20 minutes down the river and get to camp. This was noted for our next trip.

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When then headed up to Navajo falls where we passed the frybread stand we tried to visit the night before only to find the packing up because it closed an hour early. This time they we found them unpacking their goods and were informed it would be an hour before they would open.

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Why do you hate us, frybread lady?!?

Next to Navajo Falls is 50ft falls. Most miss this place because it’s a little difficult to get to; it requires swimming through the reeds and waters unknown that probably have alligators or boa constrictors or the Lochness Monster waiting to kill you. Because of that there’s no one there and you have it all to yourself.

 

 

Uh… so definitely don’t go here, it’s too scary, and we didn’t go exploring and find a cool cave or anything like that at all. Just look at my pics instead of going yourself or telling anyone about it.

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From 50 Ft. Falls, we went to the lower part of Navajo where Katie played with rocks and found some cool fossils and I almost got swept downstream by a current I clearly underestimated (danger!).

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After a couple of hours there we made our way back to the village where we FINALLY got frybread because Keto diet be damned, am I right?!? I had a cell signal and was informed our AirBnB was canceled and we watched, bitterly, at the lucky bastards taking heli rides out of the canyon, knowing we’d be carrying our packs up the hill of death at the end.

I slipped my hole-y shoes on and we left the village around 6:20 and made our way back to Hilltop.

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Two of us arrived at Hilltop just after 9 p.m. We had the full intention of sleeping in the car, but when the other two arrived later we all laughed at that idea and at midnight drove an hour and a half through the reservation, dodging animals (danger!) and to a Motel 6 (danger!) full of tweakers (danger!) and someone else’s hair in the beds (oh, dear God, danger!)

The next morning we did as all travelers do after a long, arduous 48 hours… treated ourselves to #IHOB (Danger!)

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And that was it. Our whirlwind trip was over.

Here are some tips to prepare you if you’re planning on going:

Gear:
Water shoes:
I used these. They were light and I was able to walk from waterfall to waterfall without having to change. My only complaint is that they did allow sand to get into them so I had to rinse them out several times. Don’t cheap out on the water shoes. I know you can get a pair for $15 on Amazon, but you’ll be more comfortable if you make the investment, and it’ll give you incentives to go on more water hikes. Also, Solomon please feel free to sponsor me at any time.

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Backpack:
I used this one which was given to me by my roommate who is downsizing her backpacking gear. It served me well, but she’s about 6 inches shorter than I am, and the pack is an XS and about an inch too short for me. The first day was agony, but the second day I seemed to have it adjusted to where it was pretty comfortable and I was finally balanced.

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The best thing about this is that the water pouch is removable with straps and you can use it as a day pack. If you don’t have this option, I highly recommend bringing a smaller bag as a day pack so you don’t have to lug your giant backpack around.

 

Sleeping:
Three of us used a hammock and it was a good call due to the heat. I don’t think you need a specific hammock–any one will do. The campsite has tons of trees for hammocking. Don’t forget a mosquito net as well, otherwise you’ll be spending the night swatting bugs away from your face.

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I also used that down blanket from Costco everyone is in love with (and rightfully so) and borrowed my roommate’s Thermarest pillow which was so awesome I bought my own as soon as we got back.

Food:
I’m not much of an eater when hiking. I’ve actually trained myself to do long distance hikes without any food. I always bring food, but very rarely do I need it.

I had to eat on this trip. A lot. The heat just sucked out all the energy to function on the most basic level. Being on a ketogenic diet and vegetarian, my main staples were Joseph’s low carb pita bread with single servings of peanut butter and sugar free jelly, vegetarian beef jerky, and One Bars. Also, this coffee is awesome but super not low carb.

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I slightly over packed on food, but I cannot stress this enough: bring enough food. There is also a spigot at the campsite and the tourist office to fill up on water, and a store and cafe at the village for extra supplies.

Clothes:
I wore a wicking t-shirt and leggings on the way down and brought another t-shirt for the way up. I also brought a swimsuit, a pair of shorts, several pairs of socks/underwear. There isn’t much privacy to change into other clothing, especially if you don’t have a tent, so normal rules of hygiene don’t really apply.

Man, camping is seriously gross.

Also, after my recent trip to Mammoth where bugs were biting me through my clothes, I treated my clothing with this spray to avoid that happening gain and I *think* it worked, as everywhere I was bitten was exposed skin.

 

Also bring:
-Electrolytes (I had both salt tabs and Nuun tabs)
-Container for water besides your water bladder
-Cup for coffee (can also double as a bowl)
-Spork and knife
-Burner to heat water/food or two friends with burners (score)
Smell proof bag and to hang your food so the critters don’t get it.
-Towel
Cooling towel (don’t get the iCool ones from Walmart, they suck)
-Bug spray
-Sunscreen
-Sunglasses
-Hat
-Rope/paracords for hanging food and mosquito nets
-Grocery bags for trash

 

Some other notes:

Trash:
I read quite a bit of reviews talking about the trash in the village, and yes, there was some trash. But you know where the trashiest part was? The campsite. The campsite full of tourists. That trash was ours, not theirs. If you don’t want a trashy campsite, PACK IN PACK OUT. And if you see trash, pick it up and take it out. The previous campers left their trash at our site. Did we leave it and say not our problem? Nope, we took it out. Stop complaining and then doing nothing to solve the problem.

Pack Mules/Horses:
I’ve seen many posts on the state of the pack animals that the villagers use to charge tourists to carry up backpacks. Many have said that they are mistreated. Although I saw a few horses that looked awfully thin (they were not being ridden but were grazing at their stables), most of the animals I saw (with the exception of one that was bleeding from its pack) looked healthy and cared for. Two of the people on the trip that had been before also said that they looked much better than what they’d seen the year prior as well, so perhaps they’ve taken action on this.

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I don’t know enough about the issue to preach to anyone, either way. I’m not a vet and I’m not saying they’re in perfect health, and things may be happening that I haven’t seen. But maybe they’ve made progress. Regardless, I felt better carrying out my own pack.  But that’s me. Do your research, use your best judgement, and go with what your conscious allows.

 

That Hill: I’d heard everyone talk about how horrendous the last mile was on the way out and had been dreading it the entire time, but to be honest I’ve been up worse hills backpacking, like the first mile of San G, or Whitney. Going late in the day was a good plan–we were able to relax and enjoy the waterfalls on our second day there, eat at the cafe, and then go through the canyon as it got cooler. Most people you see will leave early in the morning, but you miss an entire day of waterfalls. It depends on how many nights you get and how much time you want to spend there. But the one thing I can say is don’t go during the middle of the day, because you’ll probably die. Probably. (Danger!)

 

Their Land: And finally, this should go without saying but apparently it needs to be said. This land belongs to the indigenous people of the Havasupai tribe.

ALL of the land in the US is land of indigenous people.

We are guests on their land. We need to respect them and be grateful they’ve given us the opportunity to see this place.

The night we were in Havasupai, a group of campers making the ah ah ah “Indian call” sound that even I, shamefully, made as a kid before I grew up and realized that it’s racist. Other tourists shouted at them to be quiet and one person shouted back “You’re not my dad!”

Ugh.

Stop being disrespectful. Treat people with kindness. Be respectful. BE GRATEFUL.

Really, why do I even have to type this out?

 

All in all Havasupai was an amazing time, even with the heat, the exhaustion, and the numerous, unidentifiable bug bites all over my legs. I am hoping I’ll be fortunate enough to do it again next year and perhaps make it to the confluence, which is now on my bucket list.

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Most importantly, the trip was with good people who supported one another down scary cliffs, monster infested waters, and tweaker motels. It was definitely a memorable time and despite my hesitation (see: terror) over the heat situation leading up to the trip, I am so, so glad I went. XOXO hike fam.

Black Star Canyon to Corona

Trailhead11893-, 12247 Black Star Canyon Rd, Silverado, CA 92676
Length: 13.1 miles point to point
Elevation Gain: 2750 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced for the length of the hike
Total time: 6 hrs
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Park at Skyline and arrange for a shuttle (a generous friend, a Lyft, Santa on his way to deliver presents…)

Last year I joined Lazy Ass Hiking on their annual Santa Hat hike which starts at Black Star Canyon in Silverado and ends in Corona. After completing the trek which is all on fire road, I said to myself “Welp, that’s one I never need to do again.”

Unfortunately my roommate who hadn’t done it before didn’t agree with me and coerced me into doing it again this year despite my reassurances to her that 13.1 miles of fire road is even worse than it sounds.

Annnnyway, to do this hike you’re going to want to park at the Skyline trail head in Corona at Foothill and Trudy way and then get a shuttle to take you to the trail head which is about 25 min away. You can probably get a Lyft there, or do what Lazy Ass Hiking does, and hire a pre-school van to drive you to the start.

From the trail head you’ll start walking down the fire road and try not to get shot by owners who are super mad that hikers dare walk past their property. This aggression is traditional for Black Star Canyon, as it’s rumored to be haunted by a land owner who was shot by another land owner due to grazing rights (they took grazing seriously in the 1800s). It’s also said to be haunted by Spanish conquistadors, and Native Americans.

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I mean, if you’re going to be haunted at least have some diversity, amiright?

Despite the possible murder by ghost or non-ghost, this is by far the most enjoyable part of the trail, as there are things to look at besides shrubs. As you continue along the fire road, you’ll come to the turn off for Black Star Falls, a.k.a. Instagram’s favorite photo op for girls in bikinis at waterfalls.

 

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Follow the guy in the Santa hat and hope he’s not a ghost.

Unless you want to go on an 8 mile hike to the falls and not end up in Corona, you’ll go to the left and continue up the fire trail for all eternity.

 

From this point you will have a fairly gentle climb along the fire road while you desperately look for anything interesting. At times you’ll see the ocean, Catalina and Orange County in the vistas behind you, but for the most part it’s shrub, grass, and some mildly interesting rock. Your next landmark will be the sign for the Mariposa Reserve

 

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Through this little dip, you’ll see some different landscape, which will be a welcome reprieve. I also suggest that you take some time to explore some of the side trails for a little more interesting scenery. In fact, just off to the right, fairly quickly after this sign, we saw a trail that lead do some Native American grinding stones:

 

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This was by far the coolest part of the hike.

After you get to the end of the preserve, you will begin your final 800 foot ascent up to Beek’s Place, former weekend home of Joseph Beek who developed much of Newport.

You’ll also get a pretty decent view of the Doppler tower by Beeks, which you should continually point out to your fellow hikers by going “Hey, it’s the Doppler!” They won’t get annoyed by that at all and they’ll think it’s super funny.

 

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Eventually you’ll end up at the ruins of the old home. From here you can climb the .5 miles to the Doppler. I’ve seen the Doppler several times in my life, so  on this trip I was like “Nah, I’m good, Bro.”

From here, continue down the fire trail to Skyline, and down the trail back to your car.

 

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And there you have it. You can brag to everyone that you walked from Silverado to Corona, and declare that you never have to to it again (until your roommate makes you do it next year).

Socal Six Pack of Peaks 2018

 

Hola IEers

Are you ready to CHANGE YOUR LIFE?!?

::runs off of stage, high-fives audience members::

Recently I was anointed (that’s right, anointed… there was a ceremony and everything!*) as an ambassador for the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge which means it’s my job to get you all signed up for this awesomeness.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself and take your hiking to the next level, the Socal Six Pack of Peaks is the way to do it. Through the challenge you will climb progressively higher peaks, starting with the one everyone loves to hate (despite what Jeff says), Mt. Wilson, and ending with the highest peak in So Cal, San Gorgonio. Here are the peaks in order:

Mt. Wilson 5710 ft. (15 miles; 4200 elevation gain)
Cucamonga Peak 8859 ft. (12 miles; 4300 elevation gain)
Mt. Baldy 10064 f t. (11.3 miles; 3900 elevation gain)
San Bernardino Peak 10649 ft. (17 miles; 4700 elevation gain)
San Jacinto 10834 ft. (11.5 miles 2500 elevation if you take the tram)
San Gorgonio 11, 503 (17.3 miles 5840 elevation gain)

All together a total of 87 miles and over 27,000 feet of elevation gain.

As you can see, I have only written up the cheater’s way for San J. (and yes, I’ve done it via Marion AND Cactus to Clouds, thankyouverymuch) because I’m very busy with my job that pays the bills, but I hope to have the Marion guide written soon. Probably not the Cactus to Clouds route, though, because I was so delusional by the end of it I have no idea how I got there.

Anyway, the Six Pack is a great challenge, and a pretty awesome training plan if you’re wanting to do something like Mt. Whitney or anything in the Sierras. Plus, if you participate in the actual challenge, you get a bunch of cool stuff, are invited to the finisher’s party, and help to raise money for Big City Mountaineers, an organization that takes city kids to the mountains.

If you’re interested in participating, go ahead and use this link to sign up today.

 

*there 100% was not a ceremony of any sort

 

 

 

San Bernardino Peak

TrailheadSan Bernardino Peak Divide Trail, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305
Length: 17 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 4700 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 9 hrs
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Dirt lot at the trailhead that fills up quickly on weekends. I was able to navigate it in my Hyundai Elantra but I also scraped up the side of my car trying to avoid a large hole which is definitely going to help the resale value.

NOTE: Effective 9/1/17 permits are no longer subjected to a quota. You don’t need to acquire a permit in advance; however, they do ask you to fill out a self permit from the Mill Creek Ranger Station in Mentone. Be sure to bring a pen with you or you have to use your snake bite sharpie like I did which doesn’t work well on carbon copy paper. You can also fill out the permit via PDF, email it in, and print a copy for yourself.

 

San B is probably my favorite trail of the Socal Six Pack for no other reason than the elevation gain is pretty gentle. The bummer part is that it’s 17 miles.

This was the last of the Six Pack that I needed to do this year for my three-peat and I decided to summit solo. Even though I’ve done gazillions of solo summits, this one gave me a bit of the heebies to do alone due to the length of the trek and the fact that I was beginning in the early morning which, as we all know, is prime time for murderin’.

The first mile of the hike are arguably the hardest. You gain a lot of elevation quickly as you climb switchback after switchback. These are the switchbacks you’ll hate on your way back because they seem never ending.

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After the switchbacks, you’ll curve around the west side of the mountain and then begin heading east again. Soon you will come to one of my favorite parts of the trail, the manzanita forest:

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This part of the trail is relatively flat and enjoyable. Keep heading along the trail and you’ll end up at a three way fork in the road with a sign and a random rusty wheelbarrow. Follow the middle trail towards Limber Pine:

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After this sign, you’re going to hike and hike and hike through a little valley area and then up switchbacks to Limber Pine Campground which is apparently one of the best places to camp and see a sunset IN THE WORLD. Or at least in the San Bernardino Mountains. You do still need a permit for overnight stays.

You’ll then get to the next benchmark, which is, haha, a bench. Get it? I’m very clever.

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Limber Pine Bench offers the best view on the hike, and is where I would stop and eat lunch if I’d bothered to eat lunch on my hike.

After the bench you’ll encounter a few more switchbacks until you get to a fairly flat area where you’ll come to the Washington Monument.

It took the third time on this trail for me to actually see the Washington Monument. I always thought it was the pile of rocks with a plaque on the trail. Not so! It’s actually a bigger pile of rocks that used to be a cabin about 300 feet off the trail! I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did get a picture of this view, so there’s that:

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After the Washington Monument you’re on the last leg of the trip. The trail once again begins to climb and the very last .1 miles is very steep because apparently you haven’t done enough already.

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The peak itself is much less impressive than you’ll see at Limber Pine bench, but it’s got an ammo box, so you know, cool. And there’s a sign which was donated by @sdhiker which, if you’re solo hiking like I was, makes it super fun to try to take a picture with.

 

After you’ve rested, go ahead and head back from whence you came.

I’m going to be honest with you in saying that this is a long trek back. Like, WAY long. The last mile especially. It’s switchback after switchback. And if you hike it solo, you’ll be looking for ways to entertain yourself. Like I did when I composed this little ditty:

This is the trail that doesn’t end
Yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started hiking it not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue hiking it forever just because
This is the trail that doesn’t end…

I ended up getting back to my car at about 1:30, p.m., making my summit just over 7 hours. However when I hike solo I take breaks for no more than 30 seconds and spent just over 10 minutes at the peak trying to take a selfie with the sign.  I’m not joking. It took me 10 minutes to take a selfie with the sign. So if you do plan to hike this one, I suggest you plan for 9 hours or more.

Additionally, with the end of the permit quota, this trail is going to be very busy on weekends. When I spoke with the ranger, he said that both San B and San G parking lots are full by 7:00 a.m., so either get there early, or even better, go on a weekday. I only saw three people on the trail the entire time I was there.

‘Cause when you’re hiking, the last thing you want is to see people, amiright? How dare others be out there hiking in nature? That’s MY thing!

 

San Jacinto Via Tram

Trailhead: Palm Springs Tram
Length: 11.5 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 2500 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate (due to length)
Total time: 6 hrs
Dogs: Nope
Parking: Free, but $25 for the tram

Want to try your first peak but still need to work up to true peak bagging? Then San Jacinto is a great first trek for you.

The first tram ascends at 8:00 a.m. but you can arrive at 7:30 to purchase tickets. I’ve heard that the line is crazy, so you may want to get there even earlier to avoid the crowds. Please also note that this tram rotates your view as you go up, so if you’re afraid of heights this might not be your favorite thing ever.

Once you get to the top, you’ll head down a never ending, windy, paved road that is super fun to come back up when you’re tired. Head toward the right to the ranger station where you’ll fill out a permit to enter the San Jacinto wilderness. Keep the permit with you and you’ll return it in a mailbox on your way back.

The trail to the peak will be on your right. It’s fairly well marked except when you come to round valley and you come to a juncture with no sights that say “Peak this way, bro.” Stick to the right, and you’ll get there.

The trail meanders along with a relatively easy elevation gain. There are some spots where it does climb fairly quickly, but take heart, traveler, as it will calm back down again.

About 3 miles in you will reach Wellman Divide which has a preview of the sights you’ll have at the top.

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After Wellman Divide, you will enter the switchback section of the trail, which, again gains elevation fairly gently and offers great views of the valley below.

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The switchbacks on this section are quite long, but there are only two of them. It was at this time we also heard a search and rescue helicopter overhead that was blasting its siren above us. I later found out it was one of our friends from Instagram, who didn’t even offer us a ride. THANKS A LOT, ERIC.

Once you finish the switchback section, you’ll go to the right and meet up with Marion Trail, and you’ll only be .3 miles from the top. When you reach the end of this trail you’ll see a big rock heap that you get to climb for the rest of your summit. Once at the top, head to the left and you’ll see the San Jacinto sign, where if it’s like when Boo and I went, people decide to sit right by or walk through because they like to ruin your pictures.

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One of the best places to take in views is at the far side of the rock mound, which is a bit harder to get to which means you’ll have fewer people.

There are a lot of haters out there for people who do San J via the tram, including one at the top who got all judgy with me and Boo for not climbing Marion. I informed him that I’ve actually done the Marion trail four times, and climbed San J via Cactus to Clouds (one of the hardest day hikes in the US), so I’ve suffered quite enough on that mountain, and he can just mind his own business.

Also, it’s a 11 mile trek so it’s still a workout and a great option for people who are new to peaks as a first try.

Also, who asked you for your opinion, Mr. High and Mighty?

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And for more aggression, on the way back down, Boo and I ended up running into THE Marion for whom the trail was named. I mean, we assume it was her because when we passed her she passive aggressively threw up her arms and sighed in annoyance for reasons we didn’t quite understand. We figured that she must own the trail and our presence there must have annoyed her so I apologized, letting her know we didn’t realize she owned the trail.

Hopefully you won’t run into so many haughty people on your climb.

 

 

 

Gem Lake from Mosquito Flats (Sierras)

Trailhead: Mosquito Flats
Length: 10 miles RT  (we added more by visiting Morgan Pass & Chickenfoot Lake)
Elevation Gain: 1100 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced (only due to exposure & elevation)
Total time: 7 hrs for all
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Lots of parking at Mosquito Flats, but get there early.

Let me preface this by saying: YES I KNOW THIS ISN’T IN THE INLAND EMPIRE AND IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT MAKE YOUR OWN BLOG.

Great, now that we’ve got that out of the way.

I love the Sierras. I’ve been up there four times in the past year, which isn’t a lot except when you consider I’d never been prior to last August. My first experience was Kersarage Pass and Bishop Pass with Lazy Ass Hiking about a year ago. I was hooked after that… so hooked, in fact, that I’m still willing to camp to go there even though CAMPING IS THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD.

This time I went up with the Lazy Asses on Thursday where the first day we hiked in the Rock Creek Area to Third Lake. A beautiful trail that I may write about later.

The next day we headed out to the aptly named Mosquito Flats into Little Lakes Valley.

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Mosquito flats was gorgeous, but full of mosquitoes. I’d gotten bitten up pretty badly two days before at the hot springs we visited, so I was armed with bug spray and sun screen and was practically bathing in it hourly.

Anyway, after a quick orientation, we headed to the trail on the right to go into Little Lakes. When you have a group, only 15 people are allowed on the trail in each group, so we had to split into two. The trail quickly revealed itself to be incredibly scenic and beautiful.

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We passed several lakes along the way, including Hidden lake and long lake. There were also quite a few stream crossings.

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As we made our way up, there were some steeper parts of the trail, but nothing unmanageable. About 4 miles in we came to a post that used to have a sign on it (thanks, thieves of the Sierras!) and turned right. About a half of a mile from there, we came upon Gem Lake, and my was it purdy.

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After Gem lake, we made our way back down the trail and took a right at the post up to Morgan Pass. This was the steepest of the climbs at 600 feet, but because we were at elevation it was more like 1 million feet. There were also patches of snow on the trail which were slushy, and that’s always a good time when you didn’t bring microspikes or poles because you’re an idiot. #beprepared

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It was at Morgan Pass that I had a hard time and began to overheat from the exposure. While the climb isn’t particularly strenuous, two days of hiking trails at full exposure at high elevation was making my body go “WOAH LADY I AM NOT A MACHINE.”

I also *probably* shouldn’t have sat in the sun for an hour at Gem lake.  When I got to upper Morgan Lake, I crawled into what little shade I could find and worked to get my heart rate down. And to be honest, Morgan Lake wasn’t all that great looking in comparison to everything else and wasn’t really worth the detour.

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We then headed back down the trail and turned right at that now infamous post. About two miles in we made another right and headed to Chickenfoot Lake, where I sat in the sun some more because that’s always a solid plan when you’re dying.

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Some of the group jumped in the lake but I refrained because mosquitoes. A couple of the Lazy Asses pulled out inflatable rafts and floated around and made a lot of “dingy” jokes because every male I hang out with is perpetually 12 years old.

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After a bit there, we made our way back to Mosquito flats. The sun exposure was strong here and I just kept drinking fluids and cherishing any shade I could find. When we got back to the parking lot I sprayed, and sprayed again to avoid any more blood sucking incidents while we waited for the rest of the crew. On the way back we stopped off at Rock Creek where I took the best shower ever just to get out and spray myself with mosquito repellent again.

All in all this trek was worth the possibility of Zika (but probably not West Nile).  Hands down one of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever seen. If you make the trek, you won’t regret it.

Just be sure to bring bug spray… not sure if I mentioned it, but there were a lot of mosquitoes there.

 

 

 

Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flats

Trailhead: Santa Anita Canyon Rd, Sierra Madre, CA 91025
Length: 15
Elevation Gain: 4200 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 7.5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Lot at trailhead, Adventure Pass needed, which you can buy at any sporting goods store. Also, get there at 6:00 a.m., otherwise you’ll have to either pay $20 for the “valet” camp parking or park on the road somewhere in Outer Mongolia and hike to the trail head.

 

Oh, Mt. Wilson. The most hated of all the Six Pack of Peaks. In fact, so hated, I created merchandise so that we all may express our hatred of this mountain.

What makes Mt. Wilson so bad?

So, so many things. There are the flies and mosquitoes. The switchbacks. The canopy all around that blocks any breeze from entering. The steady elevation gain towards the end of the summit. The hill you have to climb at the end of the descent. All of it. All of it is terrible.

Yet, for some reason only known to Jeff (SoCal Hiker), he makes us trudge up this thing every year for the Six Pack of Peaks.

The best time of year to do it is in winter or early spring, before the bugs take over the place. There aren’t words to express how many flies you’ll encounter on this trail in the summer. Which makes me super glad that I waited until July to do it this year.

Bring a mosquito net.

Or take a friend like Mike who the mosquitoes are super attracted to. Eight bug bites to my one! Decoy friends are the best!

Anyway, the trail starts by descending about 400 feet. Soon after you finish this hill, you will come to a junction by a set of restrooms where you can go to the left to continue up to Mt. Wilson, OR you can go to the right and visit Sturtevant Falls.

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From a previous trip

If you do take the Sturtevant Falls route, you will either have to backtrack to get to a main trail (the trail is by the giant tree that’s embedded in the rock… you’ll know what I mean when you see it)  or you’ll have to climb up a big hill to the left of the falls that I’m not sure is actually a trail. If you do choose to visit the falls, you’ll end up on a different trail than the one we took.

For the trip I took last week (yes, I’ve hiked this dumb peak numerous times), we skipped the falls and continued onward.

Follow this trail along for awhile and you’ll cross over the stream several times, and you may come across creatures, like salamanders. If you’re weird like Mike, you’ll pick one up.

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Eventually you will come to another juncture. You’ll want to make a sharp right to continue up to Mt. Wilson. Remember this juncture on the way back.

After this sharp right is where the pain begins with a steady, brutal, humidity-laced climb. It was at this juncture that I started cursing Mike for “letting me talk him into this.”

Once you get through the grueling switchbacks, you’ll come to a fire road. Keep to the right until you get to another fire road. Very quickly after this, you’ll see a trail off to the right. Follow that for about 20 minutes and you’ll end up at a parking lot.

Oh, yes, that’s right…

YOU CAN DRIVE TO THE TOP.

You don’t actually HAVE to climb to see this peak. You can drive there. Like a regular person who doesn’t like self torture.

The one saving grace of this mountain is the fact that there is a cafe at the top where you can get coffee, Gatorade, and various food items, including chili cheese Fritos. If you’re David, the head of Lazy Ass Hiking, you’ll think is a good idea to eat that just before you have to hike 7 miles back down.

Also note that the Cosmic Cafe does not open until 10 a.m. and is closed during the winter. When Mike and I went we got there too early and were devastated by the news.

While at the top I also suggest you roam around to look at the exhibits. There’s a big giant telescope that is cool. Plus, on the far side from the cafe you’ll get better views at the lookout there.

After you’ve had your fill of goods and sight seeing, head back down the way you came.

Here’s a pro tip: if you want to avoid climbing the 400 feet at the very end of the trek, you can take the higher road back. Remember the junction before the death march switchbacks started? Go to the right instead of to the left where you ascended. The right will still have a pretty steady hill going up for quite some ways, but at least it’s not at the end of 14 miles. And BONUS: fewer flies

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Parts of this road are exposed, but there are some nice shaded areas. You’ll also see the parking lot fairly early on this trail; however keep your enthusiasm bottled down because it’s going to take you longer to get there than you think.

The trail will let you off at a paved road. Continue down the road and you’ll see the sweet, precious camp on your left where you can get in your car, turn on the AC and swear you’ll never hike that stupid peak again, until next year when you talk yourself into doing the Six Pack all over again.

Backpacking San Gorgonio via Vivian Trail

Trailhead: Big Falls Picnic, Forest Falls, CA, 92339
Length: 18.5 miles? I dunno, I keep getting conflicting mileages. Just know that it’s long.
Elevation Gain: 5840 ft.
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total time: 1.5 days backpacking; 10 hours as a day trip
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Adventure pass required. You can get them at any sporting goods store. There is a lot that says “no fee behind this sign” except that there is a ranger that stops you at a kiosk before you enter to ensure you have a pass, so riddle me that Batman.
Permit Required: Check out the Mill Creek Ranger Station for info. They run out of permits QUICK so get on that. 

 

For some dumb reason I thought it would be a good idea to backpack San Gorgonio, the longest and highest of the #SocalSixPack. I’d never backpacked before and hate camping, so, you know, why not do it on the longest of the peaks?

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There are three campsites for San Gorgonio on the Vivian Creek trail: Halfway, High Creek, and Summit Camp. High Creek is the most popular and probably the prettiest. Summit Camp is, you know, at the Summit which means you have to carry your stuff the entire time. And Halfway is about four miles up and not actually half way, it’s way less than half way, so thanks a lot, liars.

Because High Creek was full, we ended up at Halfway camp because there was no way I was lugging a tent 18 miles RT. It actually ended up being a great choice because carrying your house on your back is the pits.

@kylojenhikes, @sdhiker, @matthikes777, @denise5323, and I started out at about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.  The very first part of the trail from the parking lot is fairly easy. You walk down a dirt road and cross over a dry stream bed to get to the actual trail.

It is at the trail when the pain starts. You gain about 1,000 feet relatively quickly through a set of steep switchbacks that suck all willingness to live from your being. This is undoubtedly the hardest part of the trail and you will praise Jesus when you see the “San Gorgornio Wilderness” sign that indicates that this stretch of the trail is over.

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After this stretch, the trail mellows out and goes through a wooded, streamy area. In this section, we ran into a ranger who informed us that there was no water at our camp and that we better make sure we got it back at the stream we passed. The ladies and I held our place while we made the boys go back and get us water because that’s how society works. During this time, we also ran into @broloelcordero who had summited the mountain earlier that day.

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Eventually we made our way to the camp and found it was fairly full. We had to wander around to find a spot to host us all. After our tents were set up we faced the cold hard fact that camping without a fire is BORING AS ALL GET OUT. No heat. No light. No s’mores. NOTHING.

I ended up crawling into my sleeping bag around 9:00 because it was COLD AND BORING AND CAMPING SUCKS.

We shuffled around in the morning and left for the summit around 7:15 a.m. Most of the trail maintains the same gradual incline as before, although there is one section about a mile and a half after high creek that climbs pretty steadily. It is at the top of this section that the altitude will start to get to you, making the relatively easy incline harder than it should be. Additionally disheartening is that you will not see the actual peak until you’re right on it, as it’s blocked by two false peaks. It does seem like you’ll never get there.

Once I was at the top I was repeatedly accosted by some seriously jerk-faced chipmunks that kept trying to steal my food.

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Look, Chipmunks… you have plenty to eat up here. It’s where you live.

I don’t live here.

I don’t have a fridge where I can replenish, so stop trying to steal my low carb tortilla—IT’S ALL I HAVE YOU FAT JERK!

After fending off the little furry devils, we took our obligatory pictures with the sign and made our way back down the mountain to camp. While it was a nice break from the walking, breaking down camp on tired legs is pretty crappy.

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So overall, what did I think?

Although it was hot at the beginning, the road was strenuous at times, I got almost no sleep, the bag was heavy, and camping sucks, I did a lot better than I thought I would. As it turns out, all of those conditioning hikes up Potato Mountain with the Lazy Asses have paid off. I’ve done this hike both as a day trip and overnight, and I definitely prefer it as a day trip, even though it makes for a long hike.

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@kylojenhikes was sick during this trip (she only went because I guilt tripped her into it), and was a trooper. Recognition also should go to @sdhiker who was the only one who had any sort of backpacking experience and had to deal with our inexperience and whining. He also did his best to keep Jen from dying from hypothermia since she didn’t bring a sleeping bag.  That’s my Boo for you.

 

Gear I Used:

Sleeping Bag: Teton Tracker 5+
Although it is not the lightest bag in the world, it was fairly inexpensive (less than $70) and kept me warm. So very, very warm.  It also fit in the monster pack that @sdhiker let me borrow

Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Sol Mattress
Someone told me this would be good to get. Apparently it helps shield you from the cold ground. It also helps shield you from any sort of comfort. I’d say I got a good 5 to 6 seconds of sleep using this thing.

Backpack: Osprey Atmos 65
This bag was lent to me by @sdhiker and it’s definitely:
A) too big for a day trip
B) a dude’s bag

Although in many ways I have the physique of a 12-year-old boy, I am still a female and this bag was not made for me. No matter how I adjusted the bag, It seemed to either put too much strain on my hips or too much strain on my back. Oddly enough, it felt much more comfortable when there was more weight in it. So it was fine for the day, but you’d have to ask someone who has extensive experience with it to get a more accurate account.

Tent:  Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
I’ve put up exactly one tent in my life prior to this, and I’ve come to discover that I am not a technical person. I don’t just “get” how things work.  This tent is probably pretty easy to put up… or seemed to be as I watched someone else do it. It’s also technically a two-person tent, but it would be kinda squishy in there if I had to share it. In the end, it kept me warm and was a fine tent for the evening.